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Retsel Mill and Brass Sieves

Home Mill High Extraction Sourdough Miche

JMonkey's many blog entries on whole wheat, as well several other TFLer's posts, helped me learn to make whole grain breads that are light and flavorful, rather than the rocks and bricks I had thought were inevitable with whole wheat. Then, Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads came out, and I learned more about the reasons for soakers and mashes and gave mash bread a try. Then, I read some posts by Ron, who has posted passionately about whole grains and pushed me to think about trying home milling. Finally, Goetter mentioned stone milling at home with his Retsel, which he said was easy to clean and use, and I was off and running. I just recently received my Retsel Mil-Rite, and I'm happy to say it works just great - quite fast (5 pounds/hr for reasonably finely milled flour) and easy to clean if you need a few pounds of freshly milled whole grain flour.

However, unlike many or most of the home milling aficionados, I am as interested in traditional methods and recipes as I am in the nutritional aspects of bread. As such, I do want to be able to create "high extraction flour" or maybe even some regular bread flour from my whole grain berries to satisfy interests in country style miches and other types of bread that may call for other than pure whole wheat flour. In order to accomplish that, the flour needs to be sifted. MiniOven mentioned brass sieves, and some internet searches revealed a number of places. I finally purchased a range of brass sieves from number 18 through 120 from http://www.lmine.com, hoping to experiment with them to extract more refined flours from my freshly milled whole grain flour. While conversing with the people at Legend Mine, they said it would be backbreaking to sift very much flour by hand, and that I should consider a "sieve shaker". I don't have the sieve shaker yet, but it will arrive soon.

Sieve Shaker

Meanwhile, I went through a laborious process of discovering the right coarseness of grind and which sieves to use. I found that I could get very reasonable results by setting the mill stone adjustment to be just slightly looser than finger tight. The flour coming out was fairly fine - good for a whole wheat bread flour. Yet, it had some percentage of larger particles. I then successively sifted the flour through my #20, #40, and #60 sieves. The #20 caught large particles of bran, about 5% of the weight. The #40 sieve caught smaller particles of bran and other dark parts of the kernel - probably some of the germ from the look of it, with a weight of about 15%. The #60 sieve was catching what I would call a very dark flour, probably some combination of bran, germ, and outer endosperm, about another 15% of the weight. What came out of the bottom of the #60 sieve was very nice bread flour, creamy and slightly dark colored. I'm sure that flour from # 60 would have made a delicious whitish bread. So, the sifting is nowhere near where it could be with a shaker and will never be anything close to the perfect filtering done by commercial mills. However, for my purposes, even this very spur-of-the-moment hand processing was enough to get 65% fresh, creamy, bread flour.

As for grain, I ordered 25 lbs. of Wheat MT Prairie Gold, 25 lbs. of Wheat MT Bronze Chief, 10 lbs. of their wheat berries (hard red winter wheat berries, I think), and 5 lbs. each of spelt and rye berries. I stored them in 6 gallon buckets with screw on hermetically sealed lids and placed oxygen absorbers in the buckets. A 6 gallon bucket comfortably holds 25 lbs. of grain with enough room for the screw-on lid. All the storage buckets and lids were purchased form http://www.pleasanthillgrain.com.

Although the Retsel appears to be more than adequate in retrospect, I went off the deep end ealier in the week and ordered a Meadows 8 inch mill also. This one will grind much faster and hopefully won't be too hard to clean.

To create my high extraction flour, I just took the finest 85% that came out of my sifting, which amounted to all of the bread flour (throughs from the #60), all of the throughs from the #40 (a darker semolina-like flour), and some of the throughs from the #20 sieve (very dark, very coarse), such that I had 85% of the total weight of all the flour that I sifted. I then ran the coarser flours back through the mill at a fairly fine setting, which resulted in making those coarse components much more finely milled. I mixed them in with the good bread flour coming out of the #60 sieve, and that is what I used as my "high extraction flour".

I also finely milled enough spelt and rye to make 55g of whole rye flour and 105g of whole spelt flour. I just mixed all the rye and spelt berries together and ran them through the mill once.

I then made my high extraction miche, along the lines of a Thom Leonard Country French with a spelt and rye levain. The overall recipe is 15% fermented flour in a spelt and rye levain, mixed with a soaker of the high extraction flour with 1% malt syrup, 2% flour, and 1 tbsp of diastatic barley powder.

Some photos of the process are posted. Spreadsheets are posted in xls and html format.

Levain:

  • 30g firm storage starter (any starter will work - use 25% more batter starter or about 50% more liquid starter)
  • 52g whole rye flour
  • 104g whole spelt flour

I mixed this starter at 12:45AM after a night of much experimentation and exercise manually sifting about 10 cups of grain into 40 samples from the sieves trying to figure out the best settings for the mill. The levain was designed to rise by double and ferment an hour or so more by 9:00 AM.

Soaker:

  • 10g diastatic malt powder
  • 15g malt syrup
  • 30g salt
  • 1024g water
  • 1300g home milled and manually sifted high extraction flour

I mixed the soaker in a large bowl using a scraper until it was reasonably well mixed. The mixing was done at about 1:00AM and the soaker was refrigerated overnight.

Dough:

At 9:00AM in the morning, the soaker was spread out on a wet counter like a great big pizza. The levain was chopped into marshmallow-sized pieces which spread evenly over the soaker and pressed into the dough with the palms of my wet hands. The dough was rolled up and folded a few times, squished all through with wet hands a few times, rolled a couple of times, and placed in my DLX mixer. The dough was mixed/kneaded in the DLX mixer on low to medium for 4 minutes, allowed to rest for 4 minutes, and then mixed for 4 more minutes.

Bulk Fermentation and Folding

The dough was allowed to rise at a temperature of approximately 74F in a cabinet above my coffee machine. Initially the temperature was around 70, but by the end of the bulk fermentation the temperature was up to about 76F. During the bulk fermentation, I folded the dough at 10:40AM, 11:40AM, and 12:40AM. The total bulk fermentation time was 5.25 hours at roughly 74F.

Shaping and Proofing

One large boule was formed at 2:15PM, allowed to sit for 15 minutes on the counter, and turned upside down into one of those San Francisco Baking Institute lined baskets (12" diameter). I dusted the loaf and the basket liner with some of the bran and semolina-like flour from my siftings mixed with a small amount of rice flour. In retrospect, since the dough was not that hydrated (77%), it wasn't necessary to use the rice flour. I could have just used some of my home sifted bran and nothing else.

The basket was placed in a large ZipLoc "Big Bag" with a warm bowl of water and sealed. The proofing temperature was about 75F. I slashed with cross-hatch pattern and baked at 5PM for a total mix to bake time of 8 hours, and a proofing time, starting from 2:15PM of 2:45.

Bake

The loaf was baked in my brick oven. The oven was fired earlier and allowed to cool to a hearth temperature of about 450F. I sprayed the loaves with an orchid mister, sprayed the chamber of the oven until it was full of steam (20 seconds), and sealed the door with my wooden wet towel covered door. The bread was rotated every 15 minutes for a total of about 50 minutes bake time. The oven door was left open after 20 minutes, and the hearth temperature dropped to about 400F at the end of the bake.

To do this in a kitchen oven, heat oven to 450F, create steam however you do it, and then drop the oven temperature to about 400F. If the loaf becomes too dark, cover with foil and/or drop the temperature to 350F. Allow to thoroughly bake, so the color of the crust is uniformly dark but hopefully not burnt and the internal temperature is above 205F.

Cool

Allow to completely cool before cutting - several hours at least.

Results

The miche has a color that is darker than my usual whole wheat loaves, which may be partly because my sifting wasn't that efficient, partly because the extraction rate may be higher than for Golden Buffalo, which I would normally use for this application, and maybe just the nature of freshly milled flour, which I've never tried before. The texture is definitely lighter and softer than I expect from a whole grain, so the high extraction worked in that sense. The flavor is closer to a whole grain loaf than I expected. If I want a more mild white flour flavor, it may mean using less of the darker, larger particles, i.e. use a slightly lower extraction rate. By the way, the aroma of the fresh flour when mixed with water is most definitely better than anything I've smelled using commercial flour. Everyone in the house commented on the great aroma coming from the dough and the bread. I do believe the flavor and aroma of the bread is enhanced by the freshness of the milling, something commented on by many on the site.

The Next Phase

When I receive my Meadows mill and the sieve shaker, the next phase of the project will be to discover the right settings of the mills and sieves to gain a more efficient separation of the particles from the milling.

Meadows 8 Inch Light Commercial or Home Mill

But Why Did I Do This?

OK, part of it is just fun with gadgets. However, there are several objectives beyond that. One very significant motivation is that I haven't been very happy with the availability of other than white flour or whole wheat flour. I'd like to be able to create flours with various characteristics in the amount I need when I need it. Also, any flour other than white flour will probably have spoilage issues if kept for too long. So, rather than buy a few pounds of some specific flour, pay a lot for shipping, and then use a small amount and throw out the rest when it spoils, I can create the desired flours to order. Much of the bran can be used for dusting or added to cereal, and even the middlings may be tossed into oatmeal or toasted and used in place of wheat germ, as suggested in the Essential's Columbia recipe. If I can make the process convenient and fast, then it will be easier and cheaper in the long run to occasionally buy bulk amounts of a few different berries, as I already just did. Storage is easy for the berries, and they stay fresh for a very long time in berry form.

The result is a drastic improvement in the freshness of my flours, very little waste or spoilage, and much lower cost. I seem to spend upwards of $4/pound including shipping for small quantities to get particular flours I want over the internet. The berries, purchased mostly in 25 lb. quantities, came to less than $2/pound, even if I'm very particular and buy from Wheat MT or Heartland Mill. It could be much less if I can find sources for high quality berries locally. However, it's not a bad guess to say I lose close to half my purchased whole grain flours to spoilage. I could offset the spoilage with flour freezing strategies, but I just think this home milling approach is better. No freezing, easy to use screw-on lids on buckets of grain, and absolutely fresh flour to order. At least, that's what I'm shooting for.

It's true that the cost of the mill and sifting equipment won't be offset by the lower cost of the berries for something like 2-3 years. However, for me the home milling approach is still justified because of the freshness, flexibility of flours I can generate, and the convenience of storing berries. The fact the lower cost will allow for the recover of the cost of the equipment even if it takes a few years is just an added benefit.

Of course, the benefits above are theoretical. Maybe after the next phase, I'll conclude it's not possible to produce the desired flour characteristics with simple sieves and a small stone mill. However, the first phase was almost sufficient, other than the excessive physical effort required to manually sift the flour. If I can make the separation work a little better by discovering the right series of millings and siftings, which should be far easier to do with the sieve shaker, I'm hopeful the results will justify doing it regularly going forward.

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100% Whole Grain Hearth Breads

100% Whole Grain Hearth Breads - Crust

100% Whole Grain Hearth Breads - Crumb

After following the recent adventures of JMonkey with 100% Whole Grain Sourdough and working on answering some of the questions concerning whole grain sourdough breads posted by Ron, Shai, and Taygirl, and wanting to make some bread my wife, who is more of a "true believer" in whole grain breads, would be happier to eat, I've decided to do some experimenting again with whole grain hearth breads. Just to be up front about this, I'm not a "true believer". I'm happy to have some "Work Horse Sourdough" or even a white "Pane Casarecio di Genzano" or a "Sourdough Pagnotta" or a "Thom Leonard CF" or the like in smaller quantities, and just eat other foods to get the nutrients and fiber from the bran and germ that might be missing due to indulging in less than 100% whole grain breads. Nonetheless, when my granola eating friends give me that disapproving look, I just feel guilty if I can't come up with a good 100% Whole Grain Sourdough Hearth Bread to settle their doubts.

With the caveats mentioned above, I still thought this bread had good flavor and texture. My wife was especially happy with it and asked me to keep a small quantity of it on hand at all times in the freezer, along with other favorites. The only other time she has made such a request was for the Sourdough Focaccia, which is an addiction, not a healthy choice.

I made this bread in two different ways. The first is a one-step approach with a very long somewhat cool rise from a very small amount of starter added directly to the final dough ingredients. The second is a two-step approach with an overnight levain allowed to somewhat more than double in volume and a soaker of the remaining whole grain flours that are combined in a final dough with salt and a little malt syrup the next day for a faster warmer final rise. Note that to satisfy the "100% whole grain true believers", I have gone to the trouble of making a whole wheat starter, which I did by taking a tiny amount of my white flour starter and feeding it repeatedly over the course of the past week with exclusively whole wheat flour. Given that I feed the starter 1:4:5 (starter:water:flour by weight) every 12 hours, there is still about 1 billionth of a part of white flour in it. Sorry, I just didn't have time to get it any closer to pure whole grain. However, I then dilute it by a factor of about 100 in the dough, so the final dough is 1/100 billionth white flour or so, just in the interests of full disclosure.

I have spreadsheets for both the two-step version (html, xls), and the one-step version (html, xls). Photos of the process, including a nice pair of roast chicken and some roast yams, later mashed, covered with marshmallows, and allowed to brown in the oven. Kids love those marshmallow covered yams, let me tell you.

Version 1 Mixing and Initial Rise

Version 1 Dough:

  • 15g 80% hydration whole wheat starter (you can probably substitute any whole grain starter, or a white flour starter if you don't mind going a little below 100% whole grain).
  • 41g whole rye flour
  • 141g whole spelt flour
  • 383g Wheat Montana Prairie Gold (high protein white whole wheat flour)
  • 375g Wheat Montana Bronze Chief (high protein red whole wheat flour) or just combine the whole wheat flours and use whatever whole wheat flour(s) you like.
  • 10g organic barley malt syrup
  • 18g salt
  • 758g water

Mixed at 9:55PM with DLX mixer on medium/low for 8 minutes, then folded a couple of times and dropped in covered rising bucket for the night. It started at 74F after mixing and dropped to 70F over a few hours. It was at about 69F the next morning.

Version 2 Levain and Soaker

Levain:

  • 15g 80% hydration WW starter (same notes as above)
  • 41g whole rye flour
  • 141g whole spelt flour
  • 146g water

Mixed at 10:15 PM and let rise overnight, covered, at 70F down to about 69F.

Soaker:

  • 375g Wheat MT Prairie Gold (same notes as above)
  • 375g Wheat MT Bronze Chief (same notes as above)
  • 604g water

Mixed at 10:25PM and allowed to rest overnight at 70F down to about 69F.

Version 2 Mixing

Version 2 Dough:

  • Levain
  • Soaker
  • 10g organic barley malt syrup
  • 18g salt

The mixing of Version 2 was done at 7:30 AM. I spread soaker out on wet counter like a big pizza using wet hands. Paint levain onto soaker using a spatula. Paint organic barley malt syrup over levain. Roll up and fold a couple of times. Spread out like a pizza again. Spread salt evenly over the dough. Roll up and fold a couple of times. It was mixed in DLX mixer at medium/low for 8 mintues, folded a couple of times and placed in a covered dough bucket to rise. The dough bucket was put in my "proofing cabinet", a spot above my coffee machine that sits at about 76F in the winter. I knew that if I want to bake "Version 1" and "Version 2" together, I would need to speed up the rise on "Version 2" a little to get them to coincide. So, Version 1 was left in a cool spot at 70F for the morning, while version 2 was placed in the proofing cabinet to get a boost.

Version 1 and Version 2 Folding

At this point both versions are in their respective rising buckets, one in a warm spot, the other in a cool spot. I folded both of them about once per hour during the remainder of the bulk fermentation for a total of 3 folding sessions each. All the folds were typical of the description in Hamelman's "Bread". I pour the dough out on a lightly dusted counter with the smooth side down, fold each side in toward the middle, from the north, east, west, and south, brushing off any flour after each fold, and then turn it back smooth side up and drop it back in the rising bucket. The remainder of the bulk fermentation, measured from the point Version 2 was mixed (7:30AM), was 3.5 hours.

Shaping

At 11:00AM, both loaves were shaped into batards. Each one is about 17 inches long, and both were placed in a half sheet in couche cloths smooth side up, put in a Ziploc "Big Bag", and allowed to proof for another 2.75 hours, until 1:45 PM. The ambient temperature of the kitchen was still about 70F. Version 2 therefore proofed at an average temperature of about 74 or 73F as it started at 75F and dropped to room temperature during the final proof, while version 1 proofed at 70F the whole time.

Slash and Bake

The loaves were turned onto a peel, slashed, and put in my brick oven. The hearth temperature was about 425F and I sprayed a few ounces of water on the loaves and into the oven chamber with an orchid mist sprayer, and sealed the oven with a wet towel covered door. In a kitchen oven, bake at 425F for a few minutes with steam, then drop the temperature to 375F and allow to fully brown. The final hearth temperature was about 375F after 45 minutes of bake. The loaves had browned, the crust seemed done, and the internal temperature was about 209F.

Cool

The loaves were allowed to cool completely.

Results

The crumb is somewhat soft, but not fluffy, the holes are irregular and mostly small, but the crumb is open for a whole grain bread. It doesn't feel dense or heavy when you chew it. The crust is crunchy and fairly chewy with a good toasty flavor. The sourdough flavor of these loaves was mild and the crumb clearly had the characteristic nutty sweetness of spelt in it, even with just 15% spelt. It was hard to tell the difference in flavor between version 1 and version 2, but version 2, with the levain, seemed slightly more sour. Also, version 2 had a wetter, more proofed feel at both shaping and slashing time, even though both had increased in volume almost exactly the same amount. When I shaped version 2, it was harder to shape, as it was more gloppy, and it ended up being longer and flatter after shaping. However, the crumb texture, the crust, and the flavor were virtually identical after baking. Version 1 held its shape better and sprung in the oven, while version 2 seemed to spring up very little but did spread out a lot during baking. Although version 2 was flatter, the crumb was slightly more open. The Whole Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Bread I blogged a while back had a slightly lighter and softer crumb, even though the method was almost identical to version 2 with the levain. I suspect this is because in the sandwich bread version, the loaves were raised and baked in pans at slightly warmer temperatures and allowed to proof a little longer. Also the hydration was slightly higher in the sandwich bread.

Some Thoughts

I have had better luck with one-step versions and with two-step versions where I only allow the levain to just double and no more and with two-step versions with about 10% fermented flour, as opposed to this "Version 2", which had 20% fermented flour in the levain. I think that delivering the extra acid in a riper levain that constitutes 20% or more fermented flour causes a breakdown in the gluten structure of the final dough. This may be why Peter Reinhart's recipes in his whole grain book recommend using instant yeast with the larger levains in his recipes, which works well as many of us have verified. However, if you want to do a sourdough only recipe, my experiences so far point toward doing long slow rises from tiny inoculations, as in the one-step method, or if you are doing a two-step method with a levain, then only allow the levain to rise by double and not more before refrigerating or combining with the final dough. You won't get a big flavor boost from the levain the way you would with a riper levain, but it does allow for a convenient break in the timing, as the levain and soaker can be refrigerated for a day or two, and the the bread making process can be resumed at a convenient time.

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Workhorse Sourdough - Crust and Crumb

Workhorse Sourdough - Loaves

This recipe is a basic sourdough that I make frequently and use as an all purpose basic bread. It has more components of whole grain in it than a typical white country loaf, yet because of the high extraction flour, it has a more refined texture and less grassy flavor than a typical whole grain loaf. At least for me, it blends better with food than whole grain or close to whole grain loaves I would make for toast at breakfast, peanut butter or tahini, or sometimes as a vehicle for more strongly flavored salted meats and cheeses. I could use it as a substitute for a rustic French bread to have along with a roasted meat or an eggplant parmesan, for example.

Some additional photos are posted, as well as spreadsheets of the recipe and rise time calculations in xls and html formats.

Levain:

  • 40g white flour paste starter (I used 80% hydration white flour starter) You can use 50g of 100% hydration starter or 35g of 60% hydration firm starter and get about the same rise times.
  • 90g whole rye flour (I used Homestead Grist Mills Whole Rye Flour)
  • 180g strong whole wheat flour (I used Wheat MT Bronze Chief)
  • 68g high extraction flour (I used Heartland Mills Golden Buffalo)

The levain is designed to ripen in 10 hours at 70F or about 7 hours at 76F. In my case, it was left to ripen on the counter overnight at about 70F for a total of 10 hours. The levain can be made ahead and refrigerated after it has just doubled. It will keep for a day or two stored in the refrigerator. Ideally, if it is refrigerated, it should be removed from the refrigerator an hour or two before you put it in the dough.

Soaker:

  • 540g high extraction flour (I used Heartland Mills Golden Buffalo)
  • 540g water

Mix the flour and water enough to form a shaggy mass. Let it rest overnight. I just left it on the kitchen counter next to the levain for the night. You can also mix it ahead and store it in the refrigerator along with the levain. Remove it an hour or two before you are ready to mix the dough.

High extraction flour is a less refined flour that has some or most of the bran removed but contains most or all of the remaining components of the whole grain. Heartland Mills Golden Buffalo has the germ and a small amount of bran in it.

Dough:

  • Levain from above
  • Soaker from above
  • 18g barley malt syrup
  • 34g salt
  • 608g water
  • 975g AP flour (I used Heartland Mills Organic AP with Malt)

Mixing

The dough was mixed with a DLX mixer for about 10 minutes on low/medium. The dough is medium soft to soft. It spreads a little bit when you first pour it on the counter and is a little sticky. The dough was folded a few times after mixing, using a wet dough folding/kneading technique, in order to form it into a round ball. The dough was then placed in a covered container to rise.

Bulk Fermentation and Folding

The bulk fermentation phase was designed to last 3.7 hours at 75F. During that time the dough was conventionally folded three times, about once per hour. As the gluten develops, the dough will become stiffer and will no longer spread out when turned out onto the counter. Fold more often if the dough is too slack or fold less often if it seems too stiff and resistant to folding.

The dough should expand to about 1.7 times the original volume and become puffy during the bulk fermentation. The dough is not intended to double in volume during the bulk fermentation.

At 70F the bulk fermentation should take about 5 hours, somewhat longer than at 75F.

Shaping

The dough was halved and two large rectangular loaves were formed. The two loaves were placed in a couche on a half tray and placed in a Ziploc "Big Bag" with two bowls of hot water. The loaves were proofed for 2.6 hours at 75F. At 70F the loaves should proof for about 3.5 hours.

Slash and Bake

The loaves were slashed, put on parchment paper on a large peel and placed in a brick oven. The oven hearth temperature was about 525F at the beginning of the bake. The loaves and interior of the oven were sprayed with a fine mist using an orchid sprayer (1/6 gal/minute for 25 seconds), and the oven was sealed with a towel covered door. After 15 minutes, the loaves were rotated and the door of the oven was left open. The loaves were baked for a total of 45 minutes until dark brown. Since the dough is fairly wet, it helps to give the loaves a thorough bake. The internal temperature was 209F, but I've found that internal temperature can be an unreliable indicator of doneness with higher hydration loaves.

In my kitchen oven, I would preheat the oven to 500F with a stone and cast iron skillet. After placing the loaves on the stone, put water in the skillet and drop the temperature to 450F. After 15 minutes, drop the temperature to 400F for the rest of the bake.

The loaves are fairly large, as my brick oven has room for them. In a kitchen oven the loaves could be done one at a time, possibly shaped a little wider and shorter. To do a more typical quantity of bread for a kitchen oven, halve the recipe and make two smaller loaves that can be baked at the same time.

Cool

Allow the loaves to completely cool on a rack that allows the entire loaf, top and bottom, to be exposed to air.

Results

This bread is named Workhorse Sourdough because it can be used for almost any job. It will work in place of a white country bread for dinner, for sandwiches, for toast, or even for dipping in olive oil. The sourdough flavor of the levain with the rye and whole wheat is a little stronger than breads I've made with a white flour or spelt levain. One could put all the whole grains and Golden Buffalo flour in the soaker, and make the levain from a portion of the white flour. Water would have to be moved from the dough to the larger soaker in that case.

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Savory Sourdough Focaccia

I spent the day making a couple of sourdough focaccias and a miche that is similar to the Thom Leonard Country French recipe in Artisan Baking by Maggie Glezer. The recipe for the focaccias follows.

A spread sheet in xls format and html format for the dough is posted, which has amounts in ounces and bakers percentages, percent of fermented flour and other possibly useful information. Some photos of the process are posted, as well.

These focaccias use a small amount of instant yeast. Olive oil seems to significantly slow the activity of the sourdough once it is introduced in the dough. The fermentation in this recipe runs long enough before a large amount of olive oil is added to the dough to allow the sourdough flavor to develop.

Levain:

  • 15g of white flour starter (I used my 90% hydration starter, but you can use any healthy, active starter) Use about 12g of 60% hydration firm starter.
  • 216g of bread flour (I used Wheat Montana AP, which is like bread flour despite the AP designation)
  • 194g of water

Let the levain rise overnight until at least doubled. It can ripen a few more hours after that without changing the results very much. The levain is designed to rise for 12 hours at 70F. At 76F it might take 8 hours to be ready and at 65F it would take about 15 hours to be ready. If the levain is ready before you want to mix the dough, refrigerate it when it has about doubled, and it can be used 1 or 2 days later.

Dough:

  • 14g Malt Syrup
  • 22g Salt (1.6%, because I put additional salt on the raisin focaccia, and the chorizo and cheeses add additional salt in the savory version)
  • 4g instant yeast
  • 70g olive oil
  • 988g water
  • 84g whole rye flour
  • 84g whole wheat Flour (I used Wheat MT Bronze Chief)
  • 280g bread flour (I used Wheat MT AP)
  • 350g high gluten flour (I used KA Sir Lancelot HG)
  • 378g AP flour (I used KA organic AP)

Mixing and Kneading

You could easily use all bread flour for the white flours in the dough. This is just what I did due to finishing some bags of flour. I usually use 50% AP and 50% high gluten flour in this dough.

I mixed the dough in a DLX mixer at low/medium speed with the dough roller attachment for 5 minutes, and let it rest a few minutes. Then I split the dough in half. To one half I added a box of golden raisins - about 15 ounces, and mixed the dough for another few minutes to further develop the gluten. The other half of the dough was separately mixed for a few more minutes.

Each half of the dough was allowed to rest about 1/2 hour and then poured out on the surface and folded a few times and each was placed in its own covered bowl to rise.

Folding and Bulk Fermentation

Each dough was folded about once per hour over the course of about 3.75 hours and was at about 75F. At 70F the bulk fermentation should run longer, maybe 5 hours. The dough should become puffy and soft over that time. How much it rises is hard to tell, since it is being somewhat deflated during the foldings that are done once per hour.

Prepare Ingredients for Savory Focaccia

Sautee 1/4 inch on a side pieces of chorizo or other salty, firm sausage in olive oil until they render some of their fat and are somewhat browned. They will cook more in the focaccia, so they shouldn't be sauteed so much that they become hard. Roughly chop most of a large onion and 4-6 garlic cloves. The onions should end up in strips about 1 inch by 1/4 inch. The garlic pieces should be about 1/4 inch on a side. Sautee with some red and black pepper (maybe 1/2-1 tsp, depending on how spicey you want it). Sautee the onion and garlic until tender and translucent or beginning to brown. Chop up fresh mozzarella, about 1/2 pound into about 1/4 to 1/2 inch on a side chunks. Also have on hand enough shaved or shredded asiago or parmesan or similar salty flaked dry cheese for topping the savory focaccia. Drain the sauteed ingredients well and spread out on the counter or place in refrigerator. They will need to cool to room temperature before being pushed into the focaccia.

Place in Pan

Line a 1/2 size standard tray (about 17x13x1 inches) with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper with olive oil, about 1/4 cup. Place the dough on the parchment paper and patiently press it your fingers starting from the center and working out to the edges. If the dough will not spread out, let it rest a few minutes, and continue pressing it out. Don't squeeze it with flat palms, only press straight down, dimpling it with your fingers. With patience it spread out over the whole pan. Don't worry too much about filling the corners.

In the case of the savory focaccia, as you spread it out, drizzle about another 1/4 cup of herb infused olive oil on top. Also, once it is reasonably spread out, begin to work in the sauteed ingredients and the mozzarella cheese. Push the ingredients into the dough with your fingers. Continue to patiently push all the ingredients down. At first they may pop back up or remain on the surface. After a while the puffy dough will begin to envelop them. Every few minutes for the first hour of the final proof, continue to press in the ingredients.

In the case of the raisin focaccia, just let it rise for the first hour, while pressing in the ingredients in the savory focaccia. After an hour, press the raisin focaccia down with your fingers, working across the entire dough surface.

Proof

Cover both focaccias with plastic wrap and allow them to proof for another 2.5 to 3 hours at 75F. If they become very puffy, remove the plastic wrap and gently press them down with your fingers. The dough should be puffy, evenly risen across the whole pan, and at about the height of the top lip of the pan or a little higher. Poke any big bubbles that form with your fingers while pressing down the dough.

Toppings

Before the raisin focaccia is baked, sprinkle 3/4 tsp of salt evenly across the surface. Use your fingers to pinch the salt and carefully spread it over the dough.

The shaved, flaked, or shredded asiago or parmesan cheese should be sprinkled over the savory focaccia when it is within 5 minutes of being taken out of the oven during the bake.

Bake

These focaccias were baked in a brick oven that had been brought to a hearth temperature of about 550F and allowed to cool down to about 510F. The air temperature in the oven was about 425F. They baked for about 15-20 minutes, first in the pan for 5 minutes. They were then scooped out of the pan with a peel and placed directly on the oven floor. If I were doing this in my kitchen oven, I would bake in the pan for about 20 minutes in an oven with a stone preheated for about 1/2 hour to 450F. It may help to gently scoop the focaccia out of the pan onto a peel and drop it directly on the stone, but is not necessary. I sometimes notice a second oven spring when I drop them directly onto the stone.

Cool

If they haven't been removed from the pan, slip a peel underneath the parchment paper and carefully remove the focaccia from the pan and place on a cooling rack. Remove the parchment paper also. The bottom of the focaccia will come out better if exposed to air while cooling. Allow to fully cool before cutting.

Results

The sourdough flavor goes well with both the raisins and the savory flavored focaccias. These focaccias are favorites among family and friends and are regularly requested.

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Miche with Spelt and Rye Levain

Miche with Spelt and Rye Levain - Closeup

Zolablue, a frequent TFL contributor, encouraged me to try the Thom Leonard Country French recipe in Artisan Baking by Glezer. This recipe is a variation that incorporates some of the things I have liked in other miche recipes. For example, I am using Heartland Mills Golden Buffalo flour as the main flour, but spelt and rye are added in the levain, and there is some additional whole wheat added with a soaker. The hydration is lower than most of the other miche recipes I've tried or blogged here on TFL, which gives it a slightly more regular, dense crumb that is excellent for sandwiches or for holding honey or any wetter toppings. It is a robust texture, as opposed to a very light, irregular, open structure.

Spreadsheets in xls and html format are posted with weights in ounces, bakers percentages, and other possibly useful information. Some photos of the process are posted, as well.

Levain:

  • 10g white flour paste consistency starter (I used my 90% hydration white flour starter) Use about 8 grams of 60% hydration firm starter.
  • 58g whole rye flour
  • 119g whole spelt flour
  • 141g water

The levain is designed to rise for about 12 hours at 70F. At 76F, the levain would be ready in about 8 hours. At 65F it would be ready in about 17 hours. You can let the levain rise by double and refrigerate it if you want to make it in advance. It can be used after 1-2 days without changing the results of this recipe very much.

Soaker:

  • 203g whole wheat flour (I used Wheat MT Bronze Chief)
  • 203g water

The soaker was mixed the night before and allowed to sit on the counter overnight at about 70F. Refrigerate unless you plan to use it within 12 hours.

Dough:

  • 1 tsp diastatic malted barley powder
  • 15g malt syrup
  • 27g salt
  • 721g water
  • 203g AP flour (I used KA Organic AP)
  • 763g high extraction flour (I used Heartland Mills Golden Buffalo)

Mix and Knead

The dough was initially mixed/kneaded in a DLX mixer on low/medium speed for about 8 minutes. It was allowed to rest in the mixing bowl for about 1/2 hour and then kneaded in the mixer for another 5 minutes. The dough was dropped on the counter and folded into a ball and placed in a rising bucket. It was placed in a warm area, about 76F, for the bulk fermentation, which should run about 4.25 hours at 75F. The bulk fermentation should take about 6 hours at 70F or 8.5 hours at 65F.

Folding

The dough is fairly firm with the very water absorpent Heartland Mills Golden Buffalo and whole rye at a 79% hydration. At this consistency, the dough is stiff enough that it resists much folding, so it was folded only once about 1.5 hours before shaping.

Shaping and Final Proof

A boule was formed and allowed to sit on the counter for 10 minutes to seal the seams. Note, the loaf doesn't rise by double during bulk fermentation. The loaf was placed upside down in a lined round wicker basket style banneton dusted with a mixture of semolina, rice, and bread flour. The loaf was also dusted with the dusting mixture plus a small amount of bran. The basket and a bowl of warm water was placed in a Ziploc "Big Bag" and allowed to rise for 3.5 hours at 75F. Allow 4.5 hours at 70F for the final proof or 6.5 hours at 65F.

Peeling and Scoring

The boule was turned out on a piece of semolina and corn meal dusted parchment paper on a large peel and slashed with a cross-hatch pattern.

Bake

This loaf was baked in a brick oven after some focaccias were baked, as noted in another blog entry recently. The hearth temperature had dropped to about 485F, and the air temperature was about 425F. The oven was steamed using a very fine garden sprayer designed for orchids (1/6 gal/minute, by Foggit) and sealed with a towel covered wooden door for 15 minutes. It was then rotated and sealed with a metal door thereafter for a total bake time of about 1 hour. The hearth temperature dropped to about 445F at the end of the bake.

To do the same thing in the kitchen oven, I would use a stone and preheat the oven to 500F and steamed according to your favorite method. I use a cast iron skillet and place a special can with a small hole drilled in it with about 1 cup of water that dribbles out creating steam in the oven for about 10 minutes. I drop the oven temperature to 450F for the first 15 minutes, immediately after adding the water, and then drop the temperature to about 400F or lower, for the rest of the bake, monitoring the crust color and dropping the temperature further to avoid charred crust.

Cool

Allow to fully cool on a rack before cutting.

Results

This is a great loaf for any juicy ingredients, or things like honey, mayo, and whatnot. It's more dense and chewy than other miches I've blogged on TFL. It has a nutty, toasty, and slightly sweet flavor, I believe due to the spelt, and is a little crunchy due to the crisp thick crust that has a little bran encrusted in it, and maybe also from the added whole wheat.

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Pane Casareccio e Lariano di Genzano

Daniel Leader's Local Breads has a fascinating story of his visit to Genzano, where he saw them make large, almost charred looking, bran dusted breads raised with a biga naturale, an Italian firm sourdough levain. I enjoyed hearing about his visit with Sergio, while they mixed, raised, and loaded 64 very large loaves into a wood-fired oven. Now that I have a brick oven in my back yard, I thought I'd give a try at making these loaves in the size he says he observed at the bakery he visited. He says they created approximately 8 pound loaves that were loaded eight at a time into an eight foot long by one foot wide by about 4 inches tall box with divisions in it for eight loaves. Thanks to Zolablue for doing this recipe as shown in Leader's book and writing about it in her blog, which provided inspiration as well as lots of information and photos.

I've included some photos of the process and spreadsheets for the high extraction flour loaf in html and xls format and for the white flour loaf in html and xls format.

I only did two loaves of 8 pounds each, which I proofed in a 26 inch by 17 inch by 4 inch roasting pan, and then baked in my brick oven, which is a dome 37 inches in diameter - enough room for two of these loaves. The dough is very wet and is kneaded in a mixer at increasing speed for over 20 minutes or more to fully develop the gluten. The dough is hard to handle, as it is very soft, sticky, and puffy.

There are two styles of this bread, one with a high protein white flour and one with a high extraction flour. I used Heartland Mills Strong Bread Flour for the white flour loaf and Heartland Mills Golden Buffalo for the high extraction flour.  

Levain

  • 15g of 90% hydration white flour starter (12g for the high extraction loaf, as it rises a little faster)
  • 392g flour (use the appropriate flour for each loaf, as described above)
  • 273g water

The levain was mixed the night before and allowed to rise overnight at room temperature. The amounts are such that by mixing the white flour levain at about 10PM and the high extraction flour levain at 11:30PM, the white flour levain would be ready at 9:00AM the next day and the high extraction levain would be ready at 10:00PM the next day, allowing me to mix them successively in the morning with my DLX mixer such that both loaves would be ready to bake at the same time later on the next day. The high extraction flour rises more quickly than the white flour, so it is being mixed later to account for that difference.

Dough

  • All the levain
  • 1.6 Kg flour (use the appropriate flour for each loaf as described above)
  • 1240 g water with the white flour loaf, 1420g flour with the high extraction flour loaf
  • 5 g instant yeast
  • 40 g salt

According to Leader, the dough is mixed for a long time at high speed. I used a DLX mixer, first at a low speed to mix the ingredients for about 10 minutes, then at medium speed for about 8 minutes, then at high speed for another 4 minutes.

The dough is supposed to be very soft and wet. I had to add a little flour to the white flour loaf, as it was so wet, it wouldn't come together, even after 20 minutes of kneading. I had to add some water early in the mixing of the high extraction flour loaf, as it was clearly too stiff to begin with. Eventually, they were both fairly wet and gloppy, but with reasonable gluten development. I ended up folding the white flour dough a couple of times and the high extraction flour once. It seemed necessary to get some additional gluten development later on.

The inoculation for this recipe is 20% fermented flour to total flour weight, which is a little lower than the recipe in Local Breads (30% fermented flour). The idea was to let it rise a little longer to get more sourdough flavor in the dough. I've had better results starting at inoculations below about 25% with my starter in any event. For the same reasons, the amount of instant yeast was reduced to only 5 grams in 2Kg of total flour. My plan was to let the dough rise for about 3.5 hours in bulk fermentation and about another 2.5 hours in final proof. However, it went faster, as I forgot how warm the dough would be and how long it would stay warm due to the long machine kneading and the large volume of the dough. The dough rose almost too quickly, even with the lower inoculation and amount of instant yeast. I would consider reducing the yeast even further in a subsequent attempt, to match the timing I wanted for the sourdough fermentation with less need to punch down the dough.

Bulk Fermentation

Each dough was placed in a rising bucket. The white flour dough was folded twice, at one hour intervals. The high extraction flour dough was folded once two hours after mixing.

Final Proof

The loaves were placed seam side up in a large roasting pan measuring 26x17x4 inches. A piece of wooden board was placed between the loaves and separate couches were placed on each side of the board to facilitate lifting each large piece of dough out onto the peel. The couches were dusted with KA white wheat bran, which worked beautifully as a "teflon" dusting. After about 2 hours and 15 minutes, the loaves seemed ready. To place them on the peel they were lifted in the couche and basically "dumped" onto the parchment lined and bran dusted peel unceremoniously. They spread out beyond the edges of my 16 inch peel, so I had to quickly but gently fold the edges underneath to get the loaves to fit on the peel, which didn't sound completely inconsistent with the description Leader gave of the process followed in the Italian bakery he visited. He said the loaves were very soft and gloppy, were handled minimally, and quickly moved from one spot to another. I'm sure it was far more graceful than what I ended up doing on my first shot, but it did seem to work. The basic advice here is plow ahead, don't look back, don't waste time worrying about the shape or the tightness of it. This is a rustic loaf, after all.

Bake

The oven hearth floor was raised to about 525F and then the flame was put out, the oven door sealed, so the temperature inside could equilibrate and drop over the course of the last hour of the final proof. The loaves were dumped on the peel, adjusted minimally in shape as needed, and transferred into the oven in quick succession. The oven and loaves were sprayed with a fine mist to generate steam, and the oven door was sealed with a wooden door covered with damp towels.

The kitchen oven equivalent would be to preheat to about 450F with baking stone, and use a skillet with water or other steaming method, and drop temperature to 400F immediately shortly after putting the loaves in the oven.

The loaves were rotated after about 20 minutes, and the steam was removed from the oven by replacing the towel covered door with a metal door positioned to allow some air flow out the chimney.

The total bake time was 1 hour and 20 minutes, but the oven door was open and the outside air was fairly cold today, so the hearth temperature was only about 400F and the air temperature about 350F for the last 20 minutes. The idea was to make sure the loaf was fully baked inside, since they are large, wet loaves. The internal temperature was about 207F at the end. In retrospect the oven could have been a little hotter, as they didn't get quite as charred as was intended.

Results

The loaves have a nice color but aren't quite as dark as Zolablue's loaves. My sense of the right temperature for different situations with the new brick oven is still developing. The crumb is just what I like for both loaves, moist with irregular hole structure and a mild but distinct sourdough flavor. The white flour loaf, which may have been made a little too wet, had fewer large pockets and less crust separation than expected, given the excess hydration. As a high extraction flour miche, the high extraction flour Genzano loaf may become a standard, although the Thom Leonard Country French made with Golden Buffalo is similar and also a wonderful miche.

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Whole Wheat Mash Bread Crust and Crumb

Whole Wheat Mash Bread Just Baked

The Whole Wheat Mash Bread, as described in Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads, had a wonderful aroma as it baked. Based on the photos in the book, it came out about as it was intended. The bread was dense and slightly sweet, just as described, and the crumb texture was creamier with the mash.

I included some photos of the bread and a spreadsheet in html and xls formats that breaks out some of the details.

A preferment and a mash are mixed with some additional flour and other ingredients to form the final dough. Instant yeast is used in the final dough to speed up the rise. The idea is that the flavor is already in the preferment and the mash, so the final dough just needs to be raised, which can be done effectively and expediently with instant yeast.

I used a 50/50 mix of Wheat Montana Bronze Chief and Wheat Montana Prairie Gold. The Bronze Chief is a high protein hard red spring wheat. The prairie gold is a high protein hard white spring wheat. I may have needed more water, given my flour choice. Maybe the crumb would have been a little less dense and more tender if hydrated more, which might have suited my bread tastes a little better. However, the results look much like in the photo in Whole Grain Breads and dense was a word used in the description of the crumb in the book.

Mash

  • 60 grams (2 oz) Wheat Montana Bronze Chief (use any whole wheat bread flour)
  • 60 grams (2 oz) Wheat Montana Prairie Gold (use any whole wheat bread flour)
  • 1/2 tsp diastatic malt powder
  • 300 grams water

The idea is to raise the temperature to something slightly below 170F for 3 hours. I heated the water in a metal sauce pan and preheated my oven to 165F, which meant putting it at the lowest setting. The water in the sauce pan got to about 180F fairly quickly. It was taken off the burner and allowed to cool down to 165F, which only took about a minute with a bit of stirring. I then dropped in the flour and stirred it, using a wet spatula to clean the sides of the pan. The lid was placed on the pan (be careful the pan and lid is OK to put in oven, although the temperatures are fairly low) and the pan placed in the oven for 3 hours, then removed and allowed to cool for the rest of the evening. The change in flavor of the mash from when it was first mixed until put in the refrigerator was dramatic. It was much sweeter and also quite a bit darker in color. It seemed much like gravy, and I was lucky it wasn't thrown out, as my wife thought it was just some gravy that had been left out sitting in a pan. Fortunately, she decided there was enough gravy there to warrant placing it in a plastic container and putting it in the refrigerator.

Levain

  • 30g (1oz) 90% hydration white flour starter (use any starter, white, whole wheat, rye, etc.)
  • 110g (4 oz) Wheat MT Bronze Chief (use any whole wheat bread flour)
  • 110g (4 oz) Wheat MT Prairie Gold (use any whole wheat bread flour)
  • 150g (5 oz) water

Mix all ingredients and knead into a dough for a few minutes. Place in container large enough for at least a triple in volume. Allow to rise by double or a little more, which should take about 5-8 hours at 76F or maybe 7-10 hours at 70F. You can let it ripen more if you want stronger flavors, but the inoculation is high in this case, about 40% fermented flour in the final dough, so you may find that letting it ripen too much affects the texture adversely or makes it more sour than you'd like. I found the bread to be mild flavored, and my levain was allowed to rise to about 2.5x the original volume over about 6 hours.

Final Dough

  • 122g (4oz) Wheat MT Bronze Chief (use any whole wheat bread flour)
  • 122g (4oz) Wheat MT Prairie Gold (use any whole wheat bread flour)
  • 15g (0.5 oz, 1 tbsp) malt syrup (or honey, agave nectar, sugar, brown sugar, molasses, or don't use any sweeteners)
  • 15g (0.5 oz, 1tbsp) olive oil (or use another fat such as butter, or don't use any fat at all)
  • 9g salt (I thought this could have used a touch more salt than was specified)
  • 7g (.25 oz, 2.5 tsp) instant yeast
  • all of the levain
  • all of the mash

I have a new DLX mixer, which was used for the first time to mix the dough. It took a while to get all the ingredients to fully homogenize but was only using the roller attachment. I wonder if it would have worked better to use the dough hook. The dough seemed very stiff, and I ended up adding some water. The Wheat Montana flours are high in protein and so may need more water than the typical flour assumed in this recipe. Only about 1 ounce of water was added, as I didn't want to get too far from the recipe on the first try. However, in the future, I'll try adding more water to this recipe. It would be more difficult to work with, but I've generally preferred whole grain breads when the dough was at the higher end of the hydration spectrum.

Fermentation

The ingredients were mixed directly out of the refrigerator. After mixing, the dough was at about 70F. I let it rise for about 1 hour and 15 minutes to a little more than double, then shaped the loaf into a batard and placed on couche fabric dusted with a mix of rice flour and whole wheat flour. The shaped loaf rose another hour, was placed on a peel and slashed, and finally baked.

Bake

The loaf was baked for 20 minutes in a steamed brick oven preheated to about 450F, then turned off and sealed with towel covered wooden door. The oven door was opened after 20 minutes and the loaf baked in the open cooling oven, dropping from 425F to about 350F (air temperature) for another 30 minutes. The aroma as this bread baked was about as good as I've experienced. I don't know what accounts for the especially good aroma, but the one big difference is the mash.

Results

The bread is a little dense and would be great with any sort of spread. I had put some honey and tahini on it this morning, which was delicious. The flavor is mild, but the sourdough and the mash give it a slightly sweet, slightly sour flavor that is different from other whole grain breads I've made so far. The crumb is creamy and dense at the same time. I would like to try this recipe again but with a little more water, maybe in a pan, and see what happens.

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NYT No-Knead Sourdough Conversion

NYT No-Knead Sourdough Conversion - Crust

I haven't tried the NYT No-Knead recipe, although I've read some of the discussions on The Fresh Loaf along the way. Based on some questions from KipperCat about the amount of starter that should go in a sourdough conversion of the recipe, I decided to give converting this recipe to sourdough a try.

I've tried to stay very close to the recipe in The New York Times, although I did a few things differently - some good, some bad, probably.

I have some photos of the process and also a spreadsheet in html or xls format.

Ingredients

  • 15 grams (1/2 oz, 1 tbsp) of 90% to 100% hydration white flour starter or 12 grams of firm Glezer style starter or similar.
  • 346g (12 oz, 1.5 cups) water
  • 450g (16 oz, 3.25 cups) bread flour, should be stronger flour if possible.
  • 9g Salt

Mix

Mix water and starter and stir vigorously until starter is fully dissolved. Mix flour and salt to fully distribute salt. Put flour and salt together and use a dough scraper to work the flour into the water. Continue working around the bowl scraping dough from the side toward the center and pushing it down in the center, until you have a shaggy mass. Do a few "french folds" (I still don't know what to call this technique) as in the video I took, if you want, but this step can be omitted. Place dough in covered bowl to rise at 75F for 10 hours.

At 70F it needs to rise for about 13.5 hours. Or, at 70F, use 45g of starter instead of 15g to have a rise time of about 10 hours. Similarly, at 65F try using about 130g of starter. If using larger amounts of 90% starter, remember to adjust the water down in the final dough. For example, for 45g of 90% hydration starter, reduce water by about 15g or 1/2 oz, and for 130g of 90% hydration, reduce water by 50g or almost 2oz.

As you can see, an important aspect of the sourdough conversion is knowing the temperature and how fast your starter is. The above suggestions for the various temperatures would work for my 90% hydration starter, which would double from a feeding of 10g:50g:50g (starter:water:flour by weight) in 6 hours at 75F. The firm version of my starter at 60% hydration would double in volume in 5.5 hours if you fed it (10g:50g:50g) at 75F. At 70F the respective rise times for 90% hydration and 60% hydration starters would be 8.25 hours and 7.5 hours, respectively.

The dough should roughly double in volume or a little less. It's not too important if it doesn't make it all the way to double, and it's probably better to lean toward stopping the fermentation and moving on to shaping earlier, rather than overfementing the dough.

Shaping

I have a video of my attempt at this. I was not used to the gloppy dough you get after letting it rise without folding for so long, but I pressed forward. Scrape the dough out onto a lightly dusted surface. Fold it over itself letter style, turn 90 degrees and repeat. I then attempted to form a boule, but I found it sticking to me and to the surface, so I turned it upside down and made the boule by gathering the sides in toward the middle and pressing together, as you can see in the video.

Place the round loaf seam down on parchment paper dusted with some regular flour and some semolina or corn meal. Place the whole thing in a "ziploc" big bag, or find some other airtight container for the final rise. Place a bowl of water in with the loaf to create a humid environment to avoid a dry skin on the loaf.

The final rise should take about 2 hours at 75F, 2.5 hours at 70F, and 3.5 hours at 65F.

Slash and Bake

Here again, I have provided a video of my somewhat frightening slashing attempts, as well as of lowering the loaf into the dutch oven.

Preheat the dutch oven to 425F about 1/2 hour before baking.

Slashing is optional. AnnieT suggested that this loaf needs no slashing and cracks on top during baking, resulting in a rustic look. I did slash it, but it's somewhat difficult to do with a wet dough like this. Getting the lame wet helps. A very shallow cut at an angle is less likely to stick.

Be very careful to use thick, heat resistant hotpads or very heavy oven mitts. A cast iron dutch oven preheated to 425F is dangerous to move. Be warned. Be sure to have a place prepared for the dutch oven and the lid that is heat resistant when you remove them from the oven.

Drop the loaf, holding it by the parchment into the dutch oven. Place the lid on top. Place the whole dutch oven back in the oven. I baked it for 25 minutes, less than the recipe states, as I was worried about discovering a small piece of charcoal in the dutch oven if I let it bake too long. It was fine, though, and not even that brown after 25 minutes at 425F. At this point, I should have just left the lid ajar and placed the whole thing back in the oven. However, I removed the loaf from the dutch oven, removed the parchment paper, which was very easy, and placed the loaf on the oven rack. It took only a few minutes for the ears on the loaf to start burning. The internal temperature was about 207F, but as is typical with higher hydration doughs, it was somewhat underbaked. Faced with a choice between burnt ears and an underbaked loaf, I decided to just stop the bake. I like to toast or reheat my bread in the next days anyway, so underbaking it is fine for that situation. However, I would in the future keep it in the dutch oven and hope that with the lid only partially ajar, it would keep it from scorching and allow a longer bake.

Summarizing, bake for 30 minutes at 425F with the lid closed, then place lid so it is slightly ajar to let steam escape, and allow it to bake to a dark golden brown color 10-20 minutes more, probably.

Results

The flavor was excellent. The crust was a little thin and soft, due to my poor decisions during the baking described above. However, it still tastes great and is easily rectified by reheating or toasting. The crumb is what I find typical of higher hydration loaves. The  texture is spongey and light with a moist, cool, creamy feel. This bread reminds me very much of the "Pagnotta" recipe in my blog.

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Another Miche

Another Miche Crust and Crumb

Another Miche Crust and Oven

This miche is a lower hydration version of Miche(2) blogged a while back. I accidentally mixed in an entire levain that had been made larger than what I had intended in this recipe originally. I wanted to have an inoculation or percentage of fermented flour to total flour of 15%, similar to Hamelman's VT Sourdough, but I ended up with about 22%. I therefore had a problem with excess acid breaking down the gluten, which made the boule hard to shape and ended up making this a slightly denser miche than I've accomplished before. It's still a good chunk of bread. I baked it in my new brick oven from Woodstone. I managed to get the temperature much more reasonable, and came out with a nice crust and avoided the scorching I'd had in the first few attempts with this new oven, as I learned to manage the heat and the steam in a brick oven.

I have some photos of the process and an html spreadsheet, as well as the Excel spreadsheet that includes the recipe and a model to estimate the bulk fermentation and final proof times.

Miche(3) Recipe

Levain

  • 15g 90% hydration white flour storage starter (use any storage starter)
  • 90g Wheat Montana AP (or any other strong white flour)
  • 105g whole spelt
  • 89g Golden Buffalo from Heartland Mills (Use any high extraction wheat flour or substitute white flour here)
  • 145g water

Overnight Soak

  • 81g whole rye
  • 54g whle spelt
  • 108g Wheat Montana Bronze Chief (or other red whole wheat flour)
  • 338g Golden Buffalo from Heartland Mills (or other high extraction red wheat flour)
  • 257g Sifted White Wheat Flour from Homestead Grist Mill (or other high extraction white wheat flour)
  • 680g water
  • 12g malt syrup

Dough

  • Levain from above
  • Soak from above
  • 219g Wheat Montana AP (or other strong white flour)
  • 139g water
  • 26g salt

Mix Levain and Soak

The night before you plan to bake, mix the levain ingredients, knead minimally, and let it rise overnight, preferably until it has somewhat more than doubled but not much more, about 10 hours. You can also mix it earlier in the day, let it rise by double and refrigerate it. Also mix the soak ingredients, knead minimally just to mix the ingredients, the water, and the malt syrup. Refrigerate the soak overnight.

Mix and Knead Dough

Mix the additional white flour and water and knead minimally into a small dough. Spread the soak out like a pizza. Spread the white flour over the soak, roll up, and knead lightly to mix. Spread the dough out again and spread the levain over the dough, roll up, and knead the dough until well mixed. I have used a technique described by Glezer in Artisan Baking that works very well to mix the dough. It involves working down the dough squeezing it and extruding it through the fingers. I repeatedly dampen my hands to avoid too much sticking. Alternately, I work in some folds similar to a kneading technique in Bertinet's video and also described by Glezer in Artisan Baking.

Let the dough rest for about 30 minutes.

Spread the dough out like a pizza and sprinkle the salt over it. Again, knead to thoroughly mix the salt and to get a soft but not wet dough that is smooth and has some initial gluten development.

Bulk Fermentation

Cover the dough and set aside to rise. Stretch and fold every 30-40 minutes. The total time from mixing the levain in with the dough would be about 3-3.5 hours using my starter. It should somewhat less than double in volume during that time.

Shaping

Shape into a boule and allow it to sit on the counter upright for 10 minutes to allow the seams to seal. Be sure to shape tightly, or you will get large holes or crust separation on the sides or on top. Place upside down in a banneton or a bowl lined with a well dusted cloth. This dough can be sticky, especially if it gets too wet, so beware of sticking couche fabric. Adding about 25% rice flour to the dusting flour may help with this.

Final Proof

The final proof would normally take 2-2.5 hours with my starter. I normally place the whole thing in a ziplog "Big Bag" along with a bowl of warm water to maintain a warm and humid environment for the final proof.

Bake

Turn the loaf onto a peel dusted with semolina or corn meal. Slash as you like. I wasn't paying too much attention to this one, and ended up making a "square" pattern, which is not too attractive in retrospect. I liked a "diamond" pattern I had done previously, which is what this one was supposed to be.

Bake starting at 450F with steam, however you may accomplish that. Drop the temperature in the oven down to 400F, then down to 350F, if necessary, if the crust begins to get too dark. Bake for about 45-70 minutes, depending on your objectives. I did this one for 70 minutes to get a fairly dry crumb and a crisp crust that stays that way. However, sometimes I bake for less time, so I can freeze the bread and then reheat it later. I think it is better reheated or toasted if it hasn't been fully baked at bake time.

Cool

Allow to fully cool.

Results

I'm still very happy with the flavor, which is very similar to miche(2). This time, the lower hydration resulted in a slightly denser crumb, but it is more practical for sandwiches or for toast in the morning. The crust stays crisp with the long bake and lower hydration, which I had trouble with in miche(2). Unfortunately, I think the crumb would have been better and the rise and density better if I had used a lower inoculation, like 15%, and a slightly less ripe levain. That will be the adjustment for next time.

bwraith's picture
bwraith

I've posted a spreadsheet that summarizes what I do these days to analyze rise times and to dissect recipes or design my own variations. Below is some discussion and also some instructions for the spreadsheet. Use it as is, and modify it as you like. It may contain errors, bugs, and it is not carefully designed to work on all computers and operating systems. It uses "macros", which you have to enable, and it probably will only work with relatively recent versions of Excel that would be available in Microsoft Office 2003 or later. I notice that I can use the spreadsheet on a Macbook with Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac installed on it.

I've built some models of fermentation rates and rise times over the last few years. There is no science here, just trial and error in an attempt to engineer an admittedly crude but hopefully useful model based partly on observations and partly on what little I can gather from some scientific papers and a few baking books. You can beat me up if you want with general treatises on all the ways this doesn't make sense or can't possibly work or is theoretically completely incorrect. I already am well aware I'm skating on thin ice (or possibly am in a coma under the ice already) in any sort of rigorous intellectual or scientific sense. However, if you want to make some specific constructive suggestions or point out neat ways to get a good handle on this or that factor or places where you think the model gives wrong answers and what should be the right answer, that would be interesting.

I thought it might be worth tossing out this basic approach for how to get a handle on rise times vs. inoculation, salt, temperature, or other factors. I also did some tests on low and high hydration doughs, but I'm not describing that in the simpler approach below.

I went down some fairly lengthy testing roads and built a whole somewhat extensive spreadsheet to model rise time and fermentation time with a few more factors than indicated below in it, but a simpler, and fairly practical approach would be something like:

First make sure your starter is fully vibrant and well refreshed, and make enough to go into these test doughs.

Make up 4 small doughs using a "typical blend" of flour you might most often use. You can guess adjustments for different flours, but it's nice to do this with the flour you will tend to be using most. Make the doughs with about 200g of total flour each as follows. Use 75% hydration, which will make somewhat wet easily worked doughs. In two of the doughs, use 4% inoculation (fermented flour as a percent of total flour), one with no salt, one with 2% salt. In the other two, use 16% inoculation, one with no salt, one with 2% salt.

Try to work all the doughs exactly the same way and for the same amount of time, so the gluten development is about the same. Set them to rise in containers that allow you to determine the time it takes them to double in volume. Remember to carefully label them with the initial time and the volume level they had initially.

When they double in volume note the time, shape them into little loaves and monitor them to see when they proof. Note that time also for each dough. Bake each one when it is ready all using the same temperature if possible.

You can then use the times you get for doubling and proofing of these test doughs when you make other recipes. The total mix to bake time should be the same, whether you shape much earlier or shape closer to when the dough has doubled. Also, the fermentation times should be the same (adjusted for inoculation and salt) for other recipes, regardless of whether you deflate the dough during "folds" or do other handling techniques that may make it difficult to tell when a dough has really risen.

The difference in time to double the volume for an inoculation of 4% vs. 16% will give you an idea of how much time 2 doublings of the population of your starter takes at the temperature you used. The rise times should be roughly logarithmic with respect to inoculation, since bacterial population growth is roughly exponential during most of the bulk fermentation. An inoculation of 8% should take 1/2 of that difference in time less time to rise than the 4% inoculation and 1/2 of that difference more time to rise than the 16% inoculation. You should notice that the salted ones ferment more slowly, so you can adjust for salted vs. unsalted with the information from your test doughs. Unsalted is useful for knowing how long a levain should ripen.

Note that I don't include a 32% inoculation, which maybe should take one generation time less than the 16% inoculation. It seems to me that it doesn't work that way because 32% inoculation with a ripe levain leads to early gluten deterioration or maybe early slowing of the fermentation rate, so a dough rises more slowly than you would think, given the large inoculation. In the model I built, adjustments are made to try to account for slower rises at higher inoculations.

Adjusting for temperature is not so easy, since it gets crazy if you try to run all kinds of tests at different temperatures. I just use the models in a Ganzle paper I have that describe the growth rate as a function of temperature for L. sf and C. milleri. You can adjust the rise times to reflect the relative activity rate at a different temperature from the one you used in your tests. The time should just be inversely proportional to the growth rate.

Finally, as you start to play with more and different test doughs, you'll notice that sometimes rise times don't seem to make sense, and usually I've narrowed it down to differences in gluten quality for different doughs. For example, I've made little test doughs at very low hydration with salt. The gluten becomes incredibly stiff in a small test dough, and it just won't rise. You know the fermentation has to be ongoing, yet the volume increase is not there.

Now, what I actually did was a lot more test doughs than the ones above. I made some rough assumptions, like that the growth rate in doughs is exponential during most of the bulk fermentation, and that the dough is doubled and then proofed when the organisms reach a certain population concentration relative to the initial population concentration in a ripe starter. I'm also assuming that factors such as salt and hydration have a simple multiplicative effect on the growth rate and that the relative growth rates follow the temperature curves in a paper by Ganzle about modelling sourdough organism growth rates. The last thing I did was try to make a model of "gluten quality", which is a function of salt, inoculation percentage, and hydration. The idea is that a very stiff or very loose dough will rise less than a dough somewhere in the middle. All of this is summarized in a spreadsheet I built that tries to set all the model parameters in such a way as to minimize the difference in rise time estimates of model vs. experiment on a large number of different test doughs.

OK, it's a little crazy, I am the first to admit. However, I've found myself doing better breads and able to design my own recipes with it, since I'm not tied to just the observed condition of the dough itself, which may vary a great deal from one recipe to another and is hard for one baker to describe to another. Instead, I have a pretty good idea how long the fermentation should take for my starter, my temperatures, and the recipe inoculations, salt, and hydrations, so I can ferment and proof more according to "the clock". It doesn't mean I don't adjust according to feel and observation of the dough itself, but it seems to help a great deal to have the model's estimates of the right times in mind as I do that, in case there is something misleading about the observations or the feel of a new recipe.

The spreadsheet I'm including has blue cells that are the inputs. There are graphs of various functions used to generate the adjustments to the growth rates of the organisms in the culture. The main inputs are the inoculation, which is the percentage of flour that is coming from a preferment in the total flour in the dough. So if there is a levain with 100g of flour and 100g of water, and the total flour in the dough is 1Kg (900g of additional flour), then the inoculation would be 10%. The salt and hydration are percentages of the total flour in the dough. So, in the example above, if the levain has 100g of flour and 100g of water, and you add 900g of flour to the levain along with 600g of water and 20g of salt, the salt is 2% and the hydration of the dough is 70% (100g water in levain + 600g water added to the dough = 700g in 1Kg of total flour in the dough is 70%).

The "bread calc" tab on the spreadsheet is a general hearth bread recipe that can be changed to match many different hearth breads. You can use it to duplicate a recipe in a book to understand the rise times and see the percentages of ingredients in a consistent format. You can also use it to design your own recipes or make small changes such as scaling the recipe to a different amount, adjusting the amounts of preferment, types of flours, hydration, and so on, to suit your needs.

Instructions

Here's some stuff to help figure out how to use the spreadsheet for calculating rise times and hearth bread recipes. If you read this step by step, it should help a lot. However, I admit it's long and may take a while to get through. Sorry, I don't know an easy way around it.

First of all, you have to "enable macros", so that the software I wrote will run inside excel. You do that by going to "Tools", then opening the  "Macro" dragdown menu, then "Security..." , and finally set the "security level" to "medium". You then have to close Excel and open it again. When you do open the Excel file, it will bring up a dialog box that asks you to decide whether to "enable macros" or not. You should click on the button labeled "Enable Macros".

Once that is done, the file should open for you, and you probably will see the "summary page". There are 4 pages: 1) Summary Page, 2) Bread Calc, 3) Graphs, 4) Model. To change pages you click on the tabs at the bottom of the window. The only pages that you really need to understand are the Summary Page and the Bread Calc page.

Remember that the numbers you can change are highlighted in blue, other than the labels for ingredients and flours in the bread calc page, which can be changed, too. Look for the comments that pop up when you run your mouse over the text boxes with red triangles in them. Those comments should help a lot to figure out what is going on in the spreadsheets.

The Bread Calc page has a generic bread recipe on it. You can change the amounts you see in blue. Most of the amounts you enter are bakers' percentages. If you type 31% (literally a 3, a 1, and a shift-5 for % sign), it will take that as "31%". Some of the amounts are in grams. In that case, just type in the number, like to enter 12g type 12 (literally a 1, then a 2) in the field for the weight in grams that should be highlighted in blue. An example of that is the amount of storage starter.

On the Bread Calc page, you can set up a recipe by first setting the overall numbers down below: the total flour, the overall hydration percentage, the salt percentage, and the desired inoculation percentage (percent of fermented flour coming from the levain, typical example would be 15% fermented flour for the VT Sourdough). Then, enter the amounts of storage starter you want to use. I provided both a firm starter and a 90% hydration starter, but you can change the hydrations of either starter to match the starter you are using. The amounts of storage starter are specified in grams. You also specify the hydration desired for the levain, and specify the percentages of any additional levain flours as a percentage of the total flour in the levain. After that, you specify the additional ingredients and flours in the dough as percentages of the total flour in the recipe.

Just a side note, I do the bakers' percentages based on total flour weight, since that is the best way to scale the entire recipe and understand the overall important percentages like hydration and salt, I believe. Often, in recipe books they don't include the flour coming from the preferments in the total flour used as 100% for the bakers' percentages. So, yes, you do have to play a little with the percentages to get them to match up with a recipe in a book that may not use the same system as I'm using there. However, you can still put almost any hearth bread recipe into the format in the spreadsheet. I've done this same spreadsheet for quite a few different breads, including the Thom Leonard and the Essential's Columbia, as well as various miches, ciabattas, focaccias, and so on.

Finally, you specify your "additional flours" as percentages of total flour weight. The labels on the left for the "ingredients 1-4" and for the "flours 1-5" can be changed to note the flours and ingredients you are using for the recipe. You can see I did that for the miche recipe.

Once you've entered all the items in blue to suit the recipe you want, it will tell you the amounts in each case that you need. If you change one of the inputs, the various amounts will be recalculated. For example, if you change the percentage of one of the "flours 1-5", then that flour's weights will change, and also the "main flour" will be adjusted so that the total flour is still as specified.

The other page of interest is the "summary page", which has the rise time calculations on it. Once again, the numbers that you change are highlighted in blue.

There are three sections to the "summary page". The top is for the levain rise time calculations. The middle is for the dough rise time calculations. The bottom has a "stage calculator" that will allow you to enter the fermentation of the dough in a series of steps, and it will tell you how far the fermentation has progressed in total. You will see an "average factor" that tells starts very small and grows to about 1.0 when the dough should be doubled, and grows to about 2.3 when the final proof is finished. The stage calculator is very useful once you figure it out, but you don't need it at first.

The first number you need to think about is the number labeled "starter speed factor", which sets the overall speed of your starter. Once you know how fast your starter rises by double when fed with a particular flour type or blend, you can set "starter speed factor" to match your starter's rise time. Then, you can calculate other rise times with this summary page. That number can be set in the levain section and in the dough section, since the levain and the dough may have different flours. So, you need to run a test dough or two with typical flours and note the time for them to double, preferably measuring the volume fairly carefully. I would suggest doing a hydration of about 80%, so you don't get too much of a "crown" to confuse matters. It makes sense to do one that is large enough that you aren't getting too much "small dough" effect in the rise time.

For example, you might build a test dough with about 200g of flour. You could make a test dough with 32g of firm starter, 180g of flour and 148g of water. It will be fairly wet, but if you put it in a good rising container that has vertical sides, you can measure the time it takes to rise by double the volume. You note that time, and then set "starter speed factor" on that summary page in the levain section so that a levain with an inoculation of 10% (20g flour in firm starter divided by 200g total flour in the test dough), a salt of 0% (no salt), and a hydration of 80% has a doubling time of what you observed for the test dough. Of course, set the temperature to match what the temperature was for the rise of the test dough. Once you know the "starter speed factor" setting for your test dough, it should be a good number to use elsewhere in the calculations, including in the dough section. However, I've noticed that my doughs rise faster than my white flour levains because the flour blend in the dough is just faster rising. So, you will probably find that the test dough rises a little more slowly than your typical bread does, so you can use a little bit higher "starter speed factor" for the dough, which you will begin to figure out. For me, the "starter speed factor" number for my doughs is about 15% higher than my "starter speed factor" setting for a bread flour levain.

Once you have "starter speed factor" figured out, then the rest of the numbers are just the characteristics of your dough and levain. The inoculation percentages are listed for the recipe that you did in the "bread calcs", so you can just use those inoculation settings most of the time. The other numbers are overall hydration, overall salt, also same numbers as in the spreadsheet for the bread calcs. The temperatures are for the bulk fermentation and the final proof.

The stage calculator just lets you enter times and temperatures in a series of steps. You can see how far your dough progresses in fermenting that way. If you set "starter speed factor" so that the doubling time is right, then the average factor will be about 1.0 at the point the dough has doubled, and it will be about 2.3 when the final proof is complete.

Notice that if you put your mouse over the text boxes with red triangles in them, you will see comments I have made trying to describe the uses of the various fields.

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